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Sunday, April 26, 2009

God's Wrath

I have long been an advocate of reading the Old Testament in order to grasp a bit of God's true nature and character. The New Testament is wonderful of course. But it has an intercessor ... someone who stands between us and God. Jesus Christ acts as a buffer between us and God's true nature and character. Quite honestly, without Jesus we would not be able to stand. God's wrath would wipe us out!

No doubt the so-called Christians who like to think of God as the sappy grandpa in the rocking chair on the porch will be angry with me today. Nobody likes to think of God in any way other than totally benevolent, full of mercy and grace. He is of course totally benevolent, full of mercy and grace. But that is only part of who God is. To truly comprehend the scope of God's character and nature, we need to look at the facts. We need to see Him without the buffer of Jesus interceding on our behalf.

There is a short book in the Old Testament, Nahum. Many of us know the story of Jonah and the whale. God told Jonah to go to the prosperous, but wicked city of Nineveh and call the people to repentance. Jonah hated those people and didn't want to do it. So he ran from God, who had him swallowed by a whale until Jonah relented and agreed to go. When Jonah went to Nineveh, the people repented - and Jonah got mad at God for forgiving them.

Fast forward several years later - and find Nineveh again a prosperous, but wicked city. God has had about enough of their shenanigans, and calls Nahum to rebuke them. Perhaps Nahum was smarter than Jonah ... he did what God asked. God spoke through Nahum to the people of Nineveh. Let's take a look.

Nahum 1:2 says, "The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord takes vengeance and is filled with wrath. The Lord takes vengeance on his foes and maintains His wrath against His enemies."

Now whom do you suppose this is talking about? Who are the Lord's enemies? Are you thinking it is Satan and his demons (the fallen angels)? That would be correct. But it is not the universe of God's enemies. God's enemies are anyone who doesn't obey Him. Did you know that? And God maintains His wrath against His enemies. Let us not forget that little detail here.

Nahum 1:3 continues, "... the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished." Who are the guilty?The prophet Nahum was speaking specifically to the citizens of Nineveh. But the entire Bible is God's word to us. So any time you see anyone addressing anyone in the Bible, just insert yourself there - because it is God speaking to you (and me). These words about God's wrath? They're for you and me. They're for now. The only reason the New Testament doesn't speak to us this way is that Jesus is interceding with God on our behalf. (That of course assumes that we're submitted to and obeying Jesus!)

Now let us look for a moment at God's wrath. What is God's wrath like? Some of the more radical preachers said that God's wrath was unleashed when the hurricane dubbed Katrina hit the U.S. a few years ago. They pointed to the evil and wickedness of New Orleans. Surely it was a sinful city and was the recipient of God's wrath. We wrote those preachers off as radicals. Look at what God said to Nineveh though.

In Nahum 1:14, "... You will have no descendants to bear your name. ... I will prepare your grave, for you are vile." God actually did such a number on Nineveh that the remains of the city weren't found until the 1800's. He literally wiped out the city and all its people - in His wrath - for their wickedness. There was no federal government, no FEMA to rebuild Nineveh.

Now I'm not saying God wants to destroy New Orleans. That's not what this blog is about. But as I investigate the nature and character of God, as it is revealed in the Old Testament, I find sobering evidence.

God's enemies are defined as you and me - people who disobey Him. The fact that we've repented and call ourselves God's people doesn't resolve it either. Remember, the people of Nineveh had repented (with Jonah's work) and became God's people. But they backslid so much, became such hypocrites and were so inherently evil that there was no way back. So God's wrath was unleashed to obliterate the evil. And His wrath was sobering.

Another sobering point in this story of Nineveh, from the books of Jonah and Nahum, is the fact that humans seem to be capable of "reaching a point of no return." In other words, it appears that we can glory in God's mercy and grace only for so long. Then if our obedience and submission to His ways isn't there, the judgment must come. Can someone who believes in God get beyond the point of repentance? Apparently so. Can I get beyond such a point? How would I know it?

I think there are some simple conclusions here.
  1. First, enemies of God are defined as those who don't obey Him.
  2. Second, God's wrath is unleashed on His enemies in order to destroy the evil that makes them so vile.
  3. Third, God's wrath is formidable; the destruction He brings about is complete. (I doubt FEMA could fix it!)
  4. Fourth, it is possible for even believers and self-professed Christians to put themselves in a state of modern-day Nineveh.
Now, what do you suppose God would have us do with such revelations in 2009?

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